Power urges gifted Déise to seize the day
Published 09/09/2016 | 02:30
The greater hurling public may only be getting familiar with the mesmerising talents of Waterford's Austin Gleeson and Co, but Sean Power has been well aware of their limitless potential for nearly a decade.
After coaching with Mount Sion at underage level, Power moved into the area of U-12 county development squads and helped spread the nets wide to ensure all corners of the county were tapped into, resulting in the current U-21 crop representing a whopping 15 clubs.
Interest to wear the Déise jersey was high at U-14 level, with 150 budding Ken McGraths turning up for trials, but the cream quickly rose to the top, with Gleeson and Patrick Curran among many current seniors to excel.
"There were guys that stood out from the first time I saw them and now they are playing senior hurling for Waterford. It's amazing, there were some we picked out straight away," says Power, the current U-21 manager.
"Now they were raw and there was a lot to work on but you could see they had something. They might take the right line towards goal as a forward without direction or a back that was cutting off an angle without instruction rather than just following a man."
Power has been ever present in the development of one of Waterford's most gifted crops, having stuck with this side since the Tony Forristal tournament in 2009, where they lost the final to Tipp, and he was at the helm when they lifted minor honours three years ago.
Interestingly, Gleeson is now one of the game's finest players, bidding for 2016 Hurler of the Year, but he played in goals up until U-16, with Power admitting that his physical conditioning wouldn't have been "anywhere near what it is now or what it was for fellas".
His clubmate progressed to lead the Déise minors from centre-back in a direct switch with current keeper Gavin Power and has since gone on to wow the hurling world. The Déise boss feels the "telepathy" the players have developed over the years helps enormously, especially given that he was training with a skeleton squad of just 18 with the seniors away.
Having such a wealth of talent at his disposal does bring pressure, however, with Waterford supporters crying out for silverware.
"That's what we're all striving towards. It's to win this thing," Power says. "In one respect the senior team have made great strides. On the day in the replay against Kilkenny we were all heartbroken for that narrow defeat. But that's that grade. At this grade, the Munster Championship was a great win for us.
"We hadn't won that since 1994. So that's something but ultimately we're all in this thing to win All-Irelands and it would tick off a decent year for us to win this one. But it is noted that we want this.
"The people who support Waterford hurling want it as well so we're very well aware that we need to get something that we can attach to it rather than just good performances."
Patrolling the sideline alongside Power are Déise legends Paul Flynn and Eoin Kelly while he'll be hoping to rekindle a childhood memory with Kieran 'Cuggs' O'Gorman after a 14-year-old Power was one of a huge Waterford posse which invaded Nowlan Park after they claimed their only U-21 title against a star-studded Offaly side in 1992.
"One of the memories that sticks with me was when we went out on the field to congratulate the lads. As a young fella you are getting bashed around the place because people are just trying to get in and hug these guys," he recalls.
"I remember getting in next to Kieran, who was full-back that day, giving him a pat on the back and shaking his hand. And here we are 24 years later and Kieran is my right-hand man."
While it's difficult to plan for a Galway side with just one competitive game behind them, Power is not being lulled into any false sense of security about the challenge that awaits.
It's been a rollercoaster year for Waterford but they'll need to strap themselves in for another 60 minutes.